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Don’t you know what regret looks like?

It looks like the road not taken- but actually, things have been going fairly swimmingly on my end!

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Photo courtesy of Bonita Stables- this is at Fairlawn at the awards lunch last weekend. Beauty day eh?

Monday I had an equine counseling session, and it was kind of challenging in an emotional way, you know? But, something was coming up, and I knew I needed it.

Tuesday I had a casual hack with a friend and it was exactly what I needed. Oats and I were chill, things were just flowing- although I was noticing more in the outdoor arena that he seemed quite ouchy and footsore- particularly when we moved up to canter. I didn’t ride for that long due to that. Fortunately, he was getting front shoes on Wednesday, just in time for my jumping lesson on Thursday!

Thursday we warmed up and his canter felt…strange. Like he was coming up more, and pounding on the sand with his hooves? He felt unsure about his new kicks, and his canter reflected this- he lost impulsion throughout the corners and broke pretty much EVERY time in the top-left hand corner. He was also quite looky and had some spooks in the ‘scary corner’ where we had a gymnastic grid set up. Goof!!

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We had a grid (canter-in bounce grid, two bounces to two-two-strides. Ha, try saying that twice!!). We MAJORLY fumbled the grid more than a few times, like whoa. I don’t know how to ride kind of fumbles. Ahhhh…. Anyways. We schooled a faux-ditch with barrels and it went pretty well. Ditches and weird-looking jumps are no big for Oats.

Course time! Lots of jumps and some interesting features- a ‘rock’ skinny *(ooh) and the gymnastic, the faux-ditch, barrels, some natural planks, and a few oxers. I was like kind of wanting to freak out, but also felt like…Ok. We got this.

And we cantered it, and it went pretty well. Not fabulous- my eye was majorly off and I couldn’t find a distance to save my life, hahah. Oh well.

Then a few jumps went up, and we did it again! First jump, good, second, ok too and then the grid…Yikes. I somehow thought it would be a good idea to collect Oats for the grid while we were IN the grid. Newsflash- bad idea!! He crashed through the x-rail, and then stopped for a poop, ha.

We regrouped and I approached it with a better idea of wtf I was doing. Whoops, sorry pony!

Rest of the course was ok, I was still plagued with a pretty lousy ‘eye’ for any and all jumps, but Oats was cool with it so on we went! I am, however, having trouble making decisions in a line- for example, collecting his canter for the grid BEFORE the grid (???), riding a quieter 6 instead of kind of just riding 5+? and trying to collect or take back the last two strides before the jump in the line. I need to be making these decisions much sooner in my ride.

Argh, get with the program, me!

Ah, well. At least my position was better this week, with me ‘going with it’ for my terrible eye and lack of decisions.

 

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Trap for young players: Jump lesson update!

Another jump lesson in the outdoor arena for me yesterday! I started off in a MUCH better mood than last week (though I have one lingering concern that has been eating my sleep this week, unfortunately).

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Then I kind of felt cranky at our lousy canter- shuffle and was like, ‘I can’t ride out here! Why do I constantly feel like a beginner?’ Crabbing…and Nicole laughed and was like, of course you can ride. Deal with it!

And you know what? We had some ugly spots, and some ‘blah’ moments and I dealt with each and every one of them. We worked over a small grid (bounce to 1-stride to a 2-stride) and he was sluggy, and I had to ‘woman up’ to get the strides I wanted. And I did. And he got it!

Then we moved on to a small course. None of the jumps were intimidating, but we were jumping several small oxers…So…yeah. This is where trusting my body needed to come in. No matter what, my body is strong, capable and extremely fit. So what is the big deal? Oats is a safe horse and my body will protect me, it knows exactly what to do. One thing I am fairly proud of- we had a line of jumps with seven ‘quiet’ strides in between. The striding would be perfect if I left Oats alone to do the quiet strides, not pushing, nagging, pumping, etc. It’s harder to do for me than you think! But, both times the 7 rode great, very quiet and met the oxer at the end with no issues.

I need to trust my physical ability more.

With that in mind, we raised a few jumps (not many, ha) and I went in and immediately flubbed the first fence. Whoops! I regrouped and came back to it, and things went well!  We had 1 kind of ugly jump to the bigger oxer (2’6” I guess?) and finished the course, and I pointed to it and said that one kind of freaked me out! And Nicole was like, ok sure pick up canter and go jump it right now, one-handed.

WTF?

And I did it! And it went perfectly. Rode it out with my right hand on the reins and my left hand free-wheeling, hahah.

I trusted my body to do the right thing, and it went totally fine. Now, I just need to do that a million times. Deal with the ugly, awkward, discombobulated and know I will be fine, because I know how to do it.

Easy eh? Ha.

The machine that made us: Jump lessons!

Yesterday. Wow. So, the day went pretty seamlessly- work was good, it was fairly pleasant to run home and I was heading out to enjoy a walk with Gidget. I had my headphones in, and was listening to my favourite podcast at the moment (Casefile, check it out!) until my good mood came to a screeching halt thanks to an insanely rude, entitled neighbour.

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Dirty details don’t need to come out but protip: Confronting someone with ‘are you deaf’? pretty much NEVER goes well, you old crank. God, it really brought my happy mood down and raised alllllll of my hackles. Don’t mess with me. 

Anyways, I was amped and angry and then spent over an hour driving in traffic to the barn, leading to me rushing around and literally running to grab tack, horse, boots…Yeah. I was in an awful mood going into my riding lesson. Pissed, running late, angry, etc etc the proverbial black cloud was hanging over me.

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This sadly bled into my ride. I felt awkward, clumsy, not connecting well, Oats felt sucked back, tenderfooted and his canter? Ha, what canter. He could not hold the canter, warmed up feeling like a piece of cardboard…Yeah. So, success??

We worked over a few elements of the course in the outdoor and they went ok, until we strung them into a course. Ugh, horrible. I was getting left behind, riding defensively, you name it, I was doing it. I could NOT get in the ‘groove’ per se.

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We regrouped, and then went to tackle the course again- and Nicole suggested I let my body ‘flow’ more and focus on a big, exaggerated two-point bend/release instead of my stiff, defensive, ‘sit’ position. This would help Oats jump better too, as he would feel me committing more to the jump and not riding from the backseat (one of my bigger flaws at the moment).

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Brenda kindly gave Oats her old flymask after his other one got destroyed last week. Wonder how long this will last?

And wouldn’t you know, it worked! Our second course rode really well! Some bobble fences, but overall it flowed much better, we met the fences together, rather than Oats and then me, and it was overall just much more pretty and positive. A great note to end on! AND my friend was there, so I got video + screenshots from it. YES! Plus- I matched with Oats (on purpose this time) so we look pretty too.

So, from good, to really bad, to good again. A rollercoaster of a day!

 

Ultramarathoner

So I did something this past weekend that seemed pretty crazy to ‘outsiders’ but pretty old hat for running nutters- I ran a 50k trail race.

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On the homestretch and feeling strong. Photo by Joseph Camilleri.

Now let’s backtrack a little- I didn’t tell anyone I was training for this, except for Ian and a few friends (ok, 1 friend). It scared me more than a little, and I was worried about it. Just completing it felt like a huge task, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to do. I also didn’t want people analyzing me, or my running, or second-guessing how I was going to do. I wanted it to be personal, for me.

So…I kept it under my hat for months. I signed up for the race in December after deciding last year that if I couldn’t go faster, I would go longer. Of course, then I had an incredible race season that proved that I COULD go faster, so…Ha. But I maintained that this was my main goal- completing the race.

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At the start- the lady with the hat and walking poles is the legendary ultrarunner Ann Trason. 

The race: Prairie Inn Harriers 2:18 Run Elk/Beaver Ultras. Why Ultras? Because they offer multiple distances for the choosy runner (or crazy runner). I raced the most popular distance (50k), and they have a 40k walkers category, and a 100k and 50-miler.

The race is quite small, which surprises me because for a beginner’s ultra it is very race-friendly. Run 5 loops for the 50k- a bit repetitive due to the loops, but VERY safe, easy to stay hydrated and fueled, no need to carry nutrition or water with you, and it’s a flat course with some gravel and some roots but nothing difficult.

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Lap four and going strong! 

So, pretty doable for a first-timer ultra. The race started at 6am, I got up at 4:30am to choke down enough breakfast (hated eating, but I didn’t have a real choice) and get to the lake for the start. I was fortunate enough to have my long-suffering husband come and be my support crew (driving, handing me gels/Gu’s, electrolytes at each checkpoint to mark the laps).

Basically my brain/body was still asleep for oh, two laps or so? I ran pretty slowly and had a hard time getting with it. I felt like I didn’t really ‘warm up’ and feel like running or racing until the second lap. Which I guess, if you have 5 of them, is totally ok! I ran with another runner for the first lap (Steve) and we helped up another woman who went crash landing face-first on the ground. She was ok, but ended up dropping out after that.

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My best support crew ever! 

By the third lap, I was in the groove. I was doing it! It was a beautiful day, I had to use the washroom but nothing bad, and I felt like my fueling/water was right on target. I ate a LOT of Gu’s and gummies. The maple syrup gel I tried out was so gross I thought I was going to puke- gagging sweet. ICK!

I also ate a S’mores GU that basically slurped right down my throat because it got so warm, which was kind of gross but also…kind of ok? Ha. I really liked the Powerbar gummies, yum and great texture. The Clif Shot Bloks were harder to chew than I recalled.

I was getting tired of sweet things- yick, so many sweet things.

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Each lap I ran through the checkpoint to register my bib, and grab a few doughnut pieces to eat while I gulped down water and electrolytes. It was getting hot, my face was prickly with dried salt that abraded my nose whenever I rubbed it.

Halfway through the 4th lap (35k) my legs started howling. Wow, this was getting hard.

I struggled on and went through my last checkpoint- Ian was cheering and encouraging me, and I felt pretty good heading into the last lap. Except my right knee locked up when I started running again, and I limped for close to a kilometer until it got with the program. I was pretty concerned- was this where it ended for me? 40km? But I kept moving and motion is lotion so my knee got with the program and it was ON!

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The aftermath- not too bad actually!

My goal was to basically finish, but I was aiming for around 5 hours or under. I was right on target on my last lap, and I needed to basically pull it together for 10km more.

I felt pretty strong overall, and random older men who were unofficially manning the water stations (ersatz…water bottles left on picnic tables, haha not fancy) were impressed and told me I was looking really strong. YES! I can do this!

I ‘raced’ ok it looked like I was walking but I swear I was running so fast into the final stretch and I couldn’t believe it was over.  I ran it in 4:51 for third place in my age-group. A huge sense of relief, but also …I was expecting more? For it to feel different? For me to feel different?

I chatted with the volunteers, stood around for awhile and then we headed out for brunch- yes!! I did have a hard time scrambling out of the car (low+calves cramping up= can’t move nimbly) but otherwise, my recovery has been pretty fine. Phew!

So I did it. And I feel like if I did it, anyone can. It’s just a matter of putting your mind to a bigger, more frightening goal.

 

Final race of the 2018 VIRA Season- Bazan Bay’s 5k Recap!

It feels weird to write this, because earlier this past week I was like oh man, I am soooooo over racing! But then when I was at the race, I was thinking, boo…I want to race every weekend! Mixed emotions much?

I am having the race season of my LIFE! Each race, I am meeting the challenge and overcoming it. It feels incredible, to be completely honest. Wow. How lucky am I, that my body is responding to the increased demands in such an awesome way?

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Series award, Frontrunners gift cert & bronze in my AG. What a weekend!

All that to say- my goal for the 5k was to get under 21 minutes. It felt like a stiff goal to me, as my weakest distance is the 5k for sure, and really any shorter distances. I just don’t have the power.

So I mentally wrote off this race as a ‘for fun’ race and a way to cap off the season of good racing. I was even asking Ian AT the race what my splits should be if I wanted to get under 21, and he said around 4:10/km. Yeesh, that seemed way too fast for me. So yeah I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. My eye is on a bigger prize.

At the start, it was quite warm! I was wearing shorts and a long-sleeved Lululemon run shirt and kind of wishing I was wearing a t-shirt. Crazy eh? We were packed in close and the start was hairy- I watched someone almost smoke a small child that was up too close. Yikes!

We bustled and battled it out for 200 metres or so, and then things smoothed out. I felt like I was running pretty hard in that awkward ‘legs haven’t caught up to my lungs’ way. My first KM was about 3:56 or so? Phew, so I have some room.

We kept running and I had my eye on a few runners who I typically race with, as they have similar pacing and strengths to me. Next KM- 4:07. Ok, that I can work with, but I’d have to really watch to make sure it didn’t creep up….

KM 3- this is when I started catching runners. Not gonna lie, it felt AWESOME. Usually KM 3 is when the wheels fall off, but I just felt stronger. I ran this one at 3:50 I think? Between 3-4, I started really breathing hard, Jesus when was it going to be over? I started staring at my GPS watch, ha. A girl I caught up with-and-passed was gasping and breathing really horribly. It made me feel a bit concerned. Her coach or parent was on the sidelines telling her she had to ‘ make a decision…’

I ran a bit faster to put her behind me- it was very distracting.

And I could see the finish line- almost there! I was running as hard as I could, even though I did get caught up by a few runners who had a better sprint that I did. I could see the clock and couldn’t believe my eyes- 19-something?? Wha?

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Photo courtesy of VIRA. Third place age-grouper.

I ran down the clock and staggered around trying not to puke. Long time racer Gary Duncan saw my finish and came over to give me a hug and congratulate me. I had just raced under 20 minutes! 

Whoa! My chip time just squeaked under 20, at 19:58 and my official gun time was 20:04. I couldn’t believe it! That amazingly was good for 3rd in my age group. We also had the year-end series awards and I got FIRST in my age group! That came with $100 to Frontrunners! 🙂

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Series-end awards. Breeches are probably the least flattering pants around…Photo courtesy of VIRA.

Ian placed really high in his age-group too- 4th! Not too shabby! He is much faster than I 😉

Thanks again to VIRA for a fantastic race season. I’m floating on air, ending on a very high note. YES!

Wild’n’Wooly show recap: SUCCESS!

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Braid job and photo thanks to the lovely Sarah C!

After having to cancel two dressage shows with Oats this past year, I was understandably concerned about this one–I REALLY wanted to take him. The Wild’n’Wooly shows are new to us, I wanted to support them, and last time I took Blaze and had a great time. I thought maybe I could do even better with Oats~

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Photo thanks to John.

We were at Training Level, because of our rustiness. In September I was planning on moving him up to First Level, but after he almost died, we had to cancel. Which was fine, I would rather enjoy lots more years with my boy! And then this past spring he had the plague that all the horses picked up, so I couldn’t bring him and NO WAY was I feeling prepared enough to jump straight to First Level this spring. So, Training it is!

And it went sooo well! He warmed up really nicely, listening, not overbent, not bucky- though he did feel QUITE jazzed in the show arena, which made me feel a bit concerned, but when I ‘gave’ him my hands in the canter he responded really nicely and stretched instead of getting ‘up’ and bottled up and balky. Sooo that’s a win!

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Braids by Sarah C. Awesome job eh?

He was a total dink to get into the arena though- running backwards, gate sour. We had to get a running start from Christina every time. SIGH. Oats you are way too mature and experienced to be a crank about going in the in-gate. That was the only big bobble from our day though, so as one of my friends also riding put it ‘I’d rather the horse be a dink about going into the ring rather than have them be a dink IN the ring!’ Ha, ok that’s so true.

So the tests had some minor mistakes- my halt sucked at my first Training Level 2 test, but otherwise was ok. I came into my Training 3 test way ‘wowing’ out at the centreline approach (whoops!) but my halts were better and my circles were better. My stretchy trot wasn’t great either time, and my long-rein walk Oats was rooting. Ah!

I was rewarded well though, and came out of my Training 3 test feeling good about it, like I had improved on my Training 2 test. I NEVER feel that way normally. So that was awesome. Our final test was Prix Caprilli Training and I had a BLAST!! I was smiling, felt awesome, and loving it! Oats was super engaged too, and he was locked in on the fences hahah. Finally something we can both agree on. We did have one major bobble- our ‘stretchy trot’ ended up like, trot-walk-balk- square instead of circle. Whoops!

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All my friends. What could be better?? Photo thanks to John.

But that was pretty much our only big mistake. I came out smiling, and feeling really good.

A great day even before I checked the scores. I knew at that point they didn’t matter– I rode tests I was proud of, happy with. I had a great time with my horsey friends, I was a bit bummed for them that their tests did not go as smoothly. Horses can be heartbreakers. They work so hard and deserve to see that work provide some results!

My results: Training 2: 68% for a second place, Training 3: 71% for a first place, Prix Caprilli (?) not sure, I didn’t pick it up yet.

We were the Training Champs with 70% avg. and we also received the Judge’s Choice award. I am over the moon with his comment: “Lovely rider, I would have her ride my horses anytime!” WOWWWW! 🙂

And that friends, is an awesome day. I do not expect that kind of feedback normally, so I am floating on air with it now.

 

VIRA’s Comox Half-Marathon Race Recap!

Wow, where to begin? I was definitely gunning for a better time at this race. My previous half-marathon in the fall showed me I am capable of more (I ran a trail half at 1:40), which very much surprised me. I was coming out of my year-long racing funk and things were looking up!!

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Photo by Comox Valley Road Runner’s Jim Hockley.

I haven’t traditionally had great times at the Comox Half-Marathon. Our first time running it, I was so new to the distance we raced it at over two hours! Crazy eh? (2:05 as I check back with Raceday Timing). It hurt, it was hard and I wasn’t sure about this longer distance at all.

But, things improved. Piece by piece. The year after, we ran it at 1:45, which was HUGE for me. Wow! But that’s when things started to plateau/actively get worse for me in my body. I struggled last year with my breathing. For some reason, my VO2 Max seemed to get a lot worse and I was frequently gasping for breath. It felt like someone was squeezing my chest. I couldn’t get enough air, and almost collapsed at a pretty horrible race, in what felt like the penultimate bad decision…

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Real close up to the finish- Photo by Comox Valley Road Runner’s Jim Hockley.

Anyways, so my times at Comox last year reflected this, somewhat. I raced at a 1:44, which to anyone looks like success eh? Well, numbers don’t show everything, do they. I wasn’t happy about it, but then my Halloween Half Marathon with MEC showed me that hey, I was getting over this bout of weirdness!! Yeah!

And now…how did this race go? The big one?

It went GREAT!! I started cautiously (relatively…It still felt so fast to me) while I ran the first 9km between 4:30-4:45 at the worst end on the longer hill). People who I typically race around took off like a shot! I felt anxious about this. I couldn’t even see them anymore…Yikes.

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Very determined to the finish. Photo by Comox Valley Road Runner’s Jim Hockley.

But, the half is a much longer race, so I had time. So I hung on, and carefully watched and ran conservatively. It was amusing, because in my ‘careful’ pacing I ran with several other runners who were maybe at their max earlier…And I could hear them plotting to catch up to and pass me. And they did! But…I kind of knew they weren’t going to be able to hang on to that and it was at like, 2km. Soooo yeah, slow down guys. It’s a long race 😉 And I am a crafty person.

So I kind of laughed to myself and focused more on running a strategic race. It came to a head at 9-10.5km/the turnaround, when I was playing a bit of leapfrog with a runner who was starting to irritate me (well, and me to him probably). I knew I could outpace him, but I wanted to push him a bit, see where this was going. You can guess, he ran up, passed me, I dogged him a little…He clipped my heels when I managed to make another pass, I let him go ahead, and then dogged him…And then around the turn I blasted off!!

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Photo by Comox Valley Road Runner’s Jim Hockley.

Goodbye! I wasn’t running at my maximum at all!

I did not see this runner again. But now it was my turn to really max out my race. It was also a very long downhill stretch (my right knee is NOT GOOD today because of this….yeesh). But I could use it, and I sure did! I clocked km’s at 4:17 and 4:12, which shocked the hell out of me. Wha? I can and am doing this?

I started catching up to the runners I usually race with. They had been so far ahead I hadn’t even seen them the whole race and here I was, coming up behind. It felt really good!

I rocked the ‘faster than usual for me’ pace up until oh, 17-18 km which is traditionally a real dead zone for this race. It’s flat, lots of cars (an open course) gravel, and just…soooooooooo long.

My pace faltered a bit, but you know what? I didn’t stress and fuss. I picked off another few runners coming up the last few KM’s, which again surprised me. Usually I am getting passed at this point.

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Ian and my ribbons. The couple than runs together 😉

I was wishing I had grabbed another Gatorade drink at the 17km marker. It was really nice out, warm, sunny and I was getting hot and thirsty. Oh well! I came over the bridge, lost some momentum doing that, and then began the long run to the finish. I was so happy, people were calling to me ‘Go girl, get it!!’ 🙂 YESSS!! I got it!

I finished smiling, with a 1:34:55 for my personal best in the half, good enough for 5th place in my age-group and 11th woman finisher. A great race, well-run with over 100 generous volunteers, good cheering sections and the best food around! I enjoyed the chili and cheese and bread very much.